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Editing anchor points


Illustrator CS4 Essential Training

with Mordy Golding

Video: Editing anchor points

I have always felt that one of the best ways to learn just about anything is to reverse engineer something that already exists. In that way you could really see how something was created, and more importantly learn from that particular experience. That certainly applies to editing vector paths. Now what I have done here in this file it's called Editing Points and you will find it in the Chapter 05 of your exercise files, is I have taken just a regular letter B from a type face and I have converted it to outlines or to vectors, and if I go ahead and I select it right now, you will see that all the anchor points appear here on the path.
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  1. 59s
    1. Welcome
  2. 33m 15s
    1. Why use Illustrator?
      2m 22s
    2. What are vector graphics?
      8m 4s
    3. Understanding paths
      4m 13s
    4. Fill and Stroke attributes
      5m 31s
    5. Selections and stacking order
      8m 31s
    6. Isolation mode
      4m 34s
  3. 23m 41s
    1. The Welcome screen
      1m 11s
    2. New Document Profiles
      4m 35s
    3. Using multiple artboards
      7m 17s
    4. Libraries and content
      3m 51s
    5. Illustrator templates
      2m 56s
    6. Adding XMP metadata
      3m 51s
  4. 43m 49s
    1. Exploring panels
      4m 17s
    2. Using the Control panel
      5m 24s
    3. Navigating within a document
      5m 27s
    4. Using rulers and guides
      5m 23s
    5. Using grids
      2m 12s
    6. Utilizing the bounding box
      3m 2s
    7. Using Smart Guides
      4m 58s
    8. The Hide Edges command
      3m 30s
    9. Preview and Outline modes
      2m 17s
    10. Using workspaces
      7m 19s
  5. 37m 59s
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 8s
    2. Drawing closed-path primitives
      7m 14s
    3. Drawing open-path primitives
      5m 4s
    4. Simple drawing with the Pen tool
      7m 28s
    5. Advanced drawing with the Pen tool
      10m 33s
    6. Drawing with the Pencil tool
      6m 32s
  6. 46m 33s
    1. Editing anchor points
      13m 7s
    2. Creating compound shapes
      5m 55s
    3. Utilizing Pathfinder functions
      5m 11s
    4. Joining and averaging paths
      5m 36s
    5. Outlining strokes
      3m 24s
    6. Simplifying paths
      5m 40s
    7. Using Offset Path
      2m 42s
    8. Dividing an object into a grid
      1m 41s
    9. Cleaning up errant paths
      3m 17s
  7. 35m 22s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 4s
    2. Creating area text
      4m 19s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      6m 27s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 4s
    5. Creating text threads
      5m 28s
    6. Creating text on open paths
      5m 18s
    7. Creating text on closed paths
      3m 57s
    8. Converting text to outlines
      1m 45s
  8. 20m 12s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      7m 52s
    2. Using the Magic Wand and Lasso tools
      6m 33s
    3. Selecting objects by attribute
      2m 38s
    4. Saving and reusing selections
      3m 9s
  9. 40m 30s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      6m 47s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      3m 26s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      7m 5s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      8m 8s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 47s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      6m 50s
    7. Copying appearances
      3m 27s
  10. 37m 10s
    1. Defining groups
      7m 2s
    2. Editing groups
      5m 25s
    3. Working with layers
      8m 9s
    4. Layer and object hierarchy
      6m 56s
    5. Creating template layers
      2m 3s
    6. Object, group, and layer attributes
      7m 35s
  11. 44m 0s
    1. Applying colors
      3m 18s
    2. Creating solid color swatches
      4m 47s
    3. Creating global process swatches
      5m 1s
    4. Using spot color swatches
      4m 26s
    5. Creating swatch groups and libraries
      6m 49s
    6. Working with linear gradient fills
      6m 34s
    7. Working with radial gradient fills
      2m 19s
    8. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      4m 50s
    9. Defining simple patterns
      5m 56s
  12. 22m 40s
    1. Moving and copying objects
      2m 1s
    2. Scaling objects
      4m 49s
    3. Rotating objects
      3m 13s
    4. Reflecting and skewing objects
      2m 27s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 8s
    6. Aligning objects
      5m 15s
    7. Distributing objects
      2m 47s
  13. 25m 10s
    1. Using a pressure-sensitive tablet
      1m 37s
    2. Using the Calligraphic brush
      6m 10s
    3. Using the Scatter brush
      3m 59s
    4. Using the Art brush
      2m 26s
    5. Using the Pattern brush
      3m 20s
    6. Using the Paintbrush tool
      1m 41s
    7. Using the Blob Brush tool
      3m 42s
    8. Using the Eraser tool
      2m 15s
  14. 16m 34s
    1. Using symbols
      3m 9s
    2. Defining your own symbols
      2m 1s
    3. Editing symbols
      4m 3s
    4. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      2m 32s
    5. Using the Symbolism toolset
      4m 49s
  15. 35m 35s
    1. Minding your resolution settings
      6m 15s
    2. Applying basic 3D extrusions
      6m 43s
    3. Applying basic 3D revolves
      2m 31s
    4. Basic artwork mapping
      5m 8s
    5. Using the Stylize effects
      5m 35s
    6. Using the Scribble effect
      5m 42s
    7. Using the Warp effect
      3m 41s
  16. 21m 34s
    1. Placing images
      4m 50s
    2. Using the Links panel
      2m 47s
    3. The Edit Original workflow
      2m 0s
    4. Converting images to vectors with Live Trace
      5m 28s
    5. Rasterizing artwork
      1m 54s
    6. Cropping images with a mask
      4m 35s
  17. 7m 34s
    1. Saving your Illustrator document
      5m 18s
    2. Printing your Illustrator document
      2m 16s
  18. 6m 24s
    1. Exporting files for use in QuarkXPress
      1m 8s
    2. Exporting files for use in InDesign
    3. Exporting files for use in Word/Excel/PowerPoint
    4. Exporting files for use in Photoshop
      1m 25s
    5. Exporting files for use in Flash
      1m 15s
    6. Exporting files for use in After Effects
    7. Migrating from FreeHand
  19. 2m 23s
    1. Finding additional help
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS4 Essential Training
8h 25m Beginner Oct 13, 2008

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Illustrator can be used to accomplish many different design tasks. For this reason, Illustrator CS4 Essential Training teaches core concepts and techniques that can be applied to any workflow for print, the web, or assets that will find their way into other applications. Mordy Golding explains the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of Illustrator's drawing tools. He demonstrates how to combine and clean up paths, and organize them into groups and layers. Mordy also covers text editing, working with color, expressive brush drawing, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Making efficient use of the Illustrator interface
  • Creating text on a path
  • Using the Magic Wand and Lasso selection tools
  • Working with a pressure-sensitive tablet
  • Applying 3D extrusions and resolves
  • Converting images to vectors with Live Trace
  • Exporting files for use in Photoshop, Flash, and other applications
Mordy Golding

Editing anchor points

I have always felt that one of the best ways to learn just about anything is to reverse engineer something that already exists. In that way you could really see how something was created, and more importantly learn from that particular experience. That certainly applies to editing vector paths. Now what I have done here in this file it's called Editing Points and you will find it in the Chapter 05 of your exercise files, is I have taken just a regular letter B from a type face and I have converted it to outlines or to vectors, and if I go ahead and I select it right now, you will see that all the anchor points appear here on the path.

Well, one of the first things I want to do is, a. get an idea for where the anchor points are, remember, one of the challenges of using the Pen tool is just getting that feel or being able to anticipate where the anchor points belong on a path. So as you can see over here the anchor points obviously are on the corners here, that should be easy enough to figure out. But also along the curve, see how there aren't like millions of anchor points here, they don't need to be. If the paths are built correctly and you are smart about where you are position your anchor points, so you can get away with using very few anchor points, and obviously, the fewer anchor points you have the more easy will be to edit your art.

Well, before we start actually editing this, let's make a few changes in the Preferences that Illustrator has. Now first of all right now you can see that I have the ability to click on these paths, but I can only move the path as a whole and that's obviously because I'm using the regular Selection tool, where to use the Direct Selection tool, I could now click on let's say one corner and then move that corner individually, and I press Undo there for a second here. Let's actually change some of the Preferences for the rest of this particular video itself. We are going to use the Direct Selection tool because we are going to be dealing with the parts of the paths itself. Remember, the regular Selection tool with a black arrow works with the entire path as a whole. We want to focus on the individual parts or anchor points of the path. So in that regard we are going to be using the Direct Selection tool and that also means that I don't see the bounding box here, which makes it easy for me to focus on these individual anchor points.

So the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to change some of the preferences inside of Illustrator because the anchor points themselves, I mean, when you mouse over them they kind of light up a little bit like that. But we want to make them easier for us to work with these particular elements. So when I go over here, I have nothing selected, I'm going to go to the Control panel, open up Preferences inside of Illustrator. I'm going to switch down over here to where it says Selection & Anchor Display. Illustrator now has an entire Preferences panel that's dedicated to dealing with just working with these anchor points and working with selections. So by default Illustrator uses very small kind of out of the way icons to identify these anchor points, and the Handles are also pretty small as well. If you come from other applications like may be CorelDraw or Freehand you may be used to anchor points that are much larger and easier to see and work with.

Again, it's just a visual preference on what you like. If you work with a lot of anchor points you might want to see a lot of big ones, but if you have a lot of anchor points very close to each other, they can overlap each other. So again this include your own preference, but for now I'm going to choose, let's say, this option, which has much larger anchor points and then for the handles itself I'm going to choose larger handles. I'm not going to use the hollow diamond shape edges over here. I'm going to use just the regular round shapes here, but these circles are bigger than these. I'm also going to make sure that Highlight anchors on mouse over option is checked and that's when before any mouse over just the anchor point, the anchor point kind of lit up a little bit, got bigger, so that's the case there.

I'm going to leave the Tolerance also to 3 pixels that means that obviously as my cursor gets close enough to an anchor point then I'm able to work with it, depending on how good you are or how comfortable you are with the mouse and what your position is when you are working with your artwork, you may want to adjust that as well. For now I'm just going to leave everything else as it is. I'm going to go ahead and click Okay. Notice now by the way if I go ahead and I select the artwork here you see that the anchor points are bigger so that you can see them. So the first thing is note is that, remember, just by clicking on a path itself, I have selected the path here, but Illustrator allows me to even select parts of path without touching the anchor points. For example, I clicked over here, I could actually just drag this and it moves that segment to the path and the two anchor points that basically adjoin that particular path.

But for now I'm going to be talking about anchor points itself. If I do click on an individual anchor point, I can now select that one, notice that this one is dark, but these are hollow, so that identifies that this is the selected one. If I move over here for example, I see that these are curved anchor points or smooth anchor points. Remember, we have different types of anchor points. But the nice thing though about Illustrator is that, when you have an anchor point, you could easily switch between the modes of what that anchor point is. For example, if I have a Corner Anchor Point, I could easily convert it to a Smooth Anchor Point and vice versa. So let's first explore how we do that inside of Illustrator. If I'm using the Direct Selection tool I can move an individual anchor point as we just saw it out. And if I want to convert let's say this Smooth Anchor Point to a Corner Anchor Point how do I do that? Well, let's go ahead over here to the Pen tool, I'm going to click-and-hold my mouse button down, I'm going to use this tear off here, just so we can see all the elements that are kind of group with the Pen tool.

Now we have the Pen tool and the Pen tool allows us to create new paths that we have been doing up until now. Then we have these two tools, which we will get to in a minute, it's the Add Anchor Point tool and the Delete Anchor Point tool. But then we have this one over here called the Convert Anchor Point tool and the Convert Anchor Point tool is the tool that we are going to use to convert anchor points from one type to another. For example, we can go from the Corner Anchor Point to Smooth Anchor Point or Smooth Anchor Point to Corner Anchor Point, or as we will soon see also to create those combination points that we are talking about as well. So let's take a look at that.

Remember, how we use the Pen tool. When we started working with the Pen tool, we actually defined what type of anchor points we are using, by how we used the Pen tool. For example, if I knew I wanted to have a straight line using corner points, I would click-and-release the mouse, and that would go ahead and create corner anchor point to the straight line connecting them. Now if I wanted to create smooth anchor points, hence create a curve, I would use the Pen tool and rather than just click-and-release, I would click and drag to pull out those handles, click and drag to pull out the handles and that would give me the smooth anchor points and the curved line.

While using the Convert Anchor Point tool it's going to basically work in the exact same way. So let's go ahead and just click anywhere here on this path here, let's say I want to turn like we said before, this particular anchor point here, right now it's a Smooth Anchor Point, let's turn into a Corner Anchor Point. I'm going to go to my Convert Anchor Point tool, select it, move over, just hover right over that particular anchor point right there and just click once and because this is the same way the Pen tool work when I just click once it just made a corner anchor point.

By clicking once on in the existing anchor point where you Convert Anchor Point tool it will convert that to a Corner Anchor Point. We will see that again over here for example, may be this one here. So now I also have straight lines that connect all these particular anchor points. And again this just really drives home that concept that I was saying before about when you are using the Pen tool and you are working with vectors, you are not really drawing the lines themselves, we didn't adjust or made the lines straight. We just clicked on the anchor point that by definition by changing the type of anchor point that it was the paths that connected those two anchor points changed automatically. So remember, when we are working with Vector Graphics the all important part of your graphics is the anchor point, not the path that connects it.

So I'm actually going to say, hey, you know what, let's say, I made a mistake, I really want to turn that back into a Smooth Anchor Point. Well, remember when we use the Pen tool we click and drag to pull out those control handles. Well, again I'm going to use my regular Convert Anchor Point tool, click once on that and drag out, and then that turns it now back into a curve. So for example, this is a corner right now, click and drag, that now becomes a curve. Now let's say I want to create a Combination Point. Combination Point basically just to give you an example, if I go ahead and I adjust this particular Control Handle with my Direct Selection tool, you see how both sides of the path are affected.

Well, if I take my Convert Anchor Point tool and I click on the Control Handle not the Anchor Point, just the Control Handle I'm able to make a Change Direction Point or a Combination Point like we have been discussing until now. So now my path changes direction as it goes through that anchor point. Once I have done that by the way, I can add, use my regular Direct Selection tool to make that adjustment and now the other size no longer are part of each other. Now when you are working inside of Illustrator it's not easy to just keep dancing all these different tools, the Pen tool, the Convert Anchor Point tool, so on and so forth. So again, it's important to understand the keyboard shortcuts that you have. When you are using the Pen tool and you are working with a particular path, let's say for example, remember, if I hold down the Command key now, I'll go to the last used Selection tool. Let's go ahead and use my Direct Selection tool, click on the path, and I'm working, let's say I have my Pen tool, I'm drawing some paths here. If I hold down the Option key, the Option key basically toggles to the Convert Anchor Point tool. So as I'm working with the Pen tool for example, I could decide to be drawing shapes and then realize, oh, I want to actually change that to something else, I could very easily just click and drag to basically pull out another point and then continue joining in that way. In that way what I have done now is, while I'm drawing in the context of myself drawing I'm able to actually create a Combination Point or the Change Direction Point right here as well. So remember that's an important keyboard shortcut.

Let's go back to this B right here, which is kind of looking little deflated at the moment, but that's okay, we are learning how to edit anchor points here inside of Illustrator. So it has a few other things as far as like adding or deleting anchor points to paths, let's say you decide you wanted to add a little kind of part that kind of sticks out let's say right here on this part of the path here, how would you do that? Well, you would have to add another anchor point here. Now if I take my Pen tool, remember the Pen tool is great for working with new paths, but if you have an existing path, you want to add an anchor point here. Well, normally you would not be able to use the Pen tool here, but you'll notice though if I move my Pen tool over the path that little x right now changes to a plus (+) sign and it does let me add another anchor point there.

That's actually a great feature that Illustrator has. It's a preference actually, if you go over here, I'm going to choose Illustrator Preferences, I'm going to go to General and this is setting here called Disable Auto Add/Delete, and that's setting called Auto Add/ Delete, which is right now is off by default is what basically tells the Pen tool that as your mouse over an existing path, may be I want to add a particular anchor point to that particular path. So that setting is on by default so it automatically kind of figures out what I want to do and then if I mouse over an existing anchor point as well, that plus sign changes to a minus sign, which means remove that particular anchor point. Now that anchor point gets removed from the path, and that again, saves me from having to physically use the Add Anchor or the Delete Anchor Point tool, and let me explain to you why this is important by the way.

Let's say I want to delete an anchor point from a particular path. So let's say I don't like this one that's right here. Well, if I click on this and I press the Delete key on my keyboard, it actually deletes the path's segment, it doesn't delete just the anchor point there, and press Undo. If you want to keep the path, but you just want to remove the anchor point itself, you would need to use the Delete Anchor Point tool or in this case here just use the regular Pen tool, mouse over that point till we see it turn into minus sign, click and then that gets removed that way. You want to add additional points, let's press Undo, let's add a point here, may be add a point here, let's add one more point let's say right over here as well. You want to make sure you see that plus sign, click right there. Now switch to my Direct Selection tool and I'll pull just that particular path out and that's to make that somewhat different.

So those are the ways that you can actually work with paths itself. There are some tools available in the Control panel as you are working with paths to help you. For example, again I'm going to using the Direction Selection tool, I'll highlight parts of the path here, let's say these three anchor points that are here. If I want to remove just all of those three and go back to a straight line rather than I have to click on each of these individually, I could go over here into the Control panel, there is an option here called Cut path at selected anchor points, or remove selected anchor points. Now obviously cutting the path would be the same thing as if I had hit the Delete button. Actually it would turn them into separate paths at that way to kind of break apart the path, but here what I can do is I can click on Remove selected anchor points, those get deleted and then the path just simply remains intact in that way.

I also have a way you noticed when I click on a path itself, Illustrator only displays the control handles to the point that I'm working on or the path that I'm working on. Obviously Illustrator only allows you to edit one Control Handle at a time, so it is of no use for me to see the Control Handle here when I'm working over here. However, there may times just to be able to observe and see where these control handles lie, I could just marquee select the whole bunch of anchor points here and then over here, this option where it says Handles I could say Show handles for all those, now we can see all the handles that appear for those particular ones.

One of the little tip before we close out on this particular here, is that I mentioned before how you could use the Convert Anchor Point tool to actually convert anchor points from Corner Anchor Point to Smooth Anchor Point and vice versa, there is also a way to do that right in the Control panel with these buttons right here. So this one is obviously a curve, I can click on that and convert it to a Corner Anchor Point if I want to, and then go back to a Curve Anchor Point as well, but I showed you before how you can do that manually using the Convert Anchor Point tool as well. So that's just a nice little overview of how you edit all these anchor points and vector objects, and again this is the knowledge you don't need to have at a very core level when you start to get in and make little tweaks and changes to your adjustments. But as we will soon see now to the rest of this chapter we are going to talk about working and editing with vectors that don't require this level of granularity, we don't need to go into the actual anchor points because we are able to start editing and working with paths from more of an object-based perspective, that is a lot easier to basically get a grasp of, but when you do have time, I do suggest you to again open up existing files, see where those anchor points are, play around with them, as you begin to get more experienced with using them, you will feel far more comfortable in editing these anchor points and break your paths.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS4 Essential Training .

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Q: I cannot get the new brush dropdown to allow me to create either a New Scatter Brush or a New Art Brush; the only ones I can click on are New Calligraphic Brush and New Pattern Brush. When I go to Windows > Brush Library and choose New Brush, again the only ones I can click on are New Calligraphic Brush and New Pattern Brush. How do I make these work like they should?
A: In order to create a new Scatter or Art brush, you must first have artwork selected on the artboard.
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